How to Self-Edit a White Paper


Learn how to edit your white paper before publishing. White papers come in two main forms – the political and the commercial. Either way, the aim is the same; you need to argue that your idea, your point of view on a topic or problem, is the best solution to the task at hand. Whether you’re selling a new way of checking emails or proposing a policy shift, your aims are identical.

You have to educate, argue and sell.

Writing may seem like the hard part, but there’s more to come. To ensure your white paper is as strong as its ever going to get, you need to tackle the hardest part straight on. You have to edit it.

The following guidelines will help you edit a white paper. 

When it comes to editing your work, you need to sit back, relax, and try to look at your white paper from the perspective of your audience. If you can’t quite face that yet, then you need to discover why.

You must, and I can’t stress this enough, run a spelling and grammar check. I don’t care if you’ve been writing for years and hold the nickname of ‘walking dictionary.’ No one is perfect and running a spelling and grammar check is going to pick up all the typos, the floating commas, and wandering quotation marks.

You’ve also got to do it twice. While the computer will do all the arduous work in the first instance, your word processor has no idea of context. Some specialist terms may well be missing from its dictionary (not to mention Microsoft Word’s dreaded ‘Passive Voice’ grammar hang-up).

Read your work post-spelling and grammar check. Make sure everything makes sense, reads well, and follows all the rules. Remember, you can disagree with your word-processor’s advice but only after you’ve heard it.

Give your paper a read through again. This time look for word-for-word repeats. You will, naturally, repeat certain key phrases but when they appear word-for-word it looks like you’ve just copied and pasted. While there are only so many ways to phrase something, try your best to re-word and re-phrase. You need to reinforce your points, not repeat them verbatim.

Once you’re done with the basics, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. You’ve got to try and ‘forget’ your arguments and opinions and look at your work as if you knew nothing about it. This is what people mean by ‘sleep on it.’

You’ve got to walk away, lose yourself, and come back to your work. Read it through, maybe even read it out-loud. Does it flow well? Does each paragraph naturally lead into the next? Do you go off on any tangents?

A White Paper should ‘stick to its guns.’ Whatever arguments/evidence you’ve outlined in your introduction must be mentioned in the body of the work and then reinforced in the conclusion.

Remember, the aim of a White Paper is to get people to agree with your point of view. Does your work explain why your idea merits discussion; are you providing evidence to back up your claims? Make sure your points aren’t just left hanging, like a building they need not just solid foundations but supporting walls too.

The final polish is self-editing your White Paper. Your ideas, analysis, and arguments are already there, but through editing, you’ll make them stand out. Through getting rid of all the little errors (spelling and grammar), the slightly larger issues like tangents, structure, and organization, you’ll be able to get a good look at your substantive writing.

Have confidence in your work, support all your points, reinforce them in your conclusion and your White Paper will stand out.


Frequently Asked Questions

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